If you haven’t heard of a beta sitosterol, you’re not alone. It’s one of those supplements that’s been around awhile, but has kinda flown under the radar; even if you’ve heard of it, you’ve probably only heard of its use is limited contexts. Today, beta sitosterol is coming into focus as a major weapon in the fight against hair loss, and more and more research is being done on the subject all the time.
What is beta sitosterol?
Beta sitosterol is a phytosterol. Phytosterols may occasionally be called “plant sterols” (since the word “plant” and the root “phyto” are synonyms as well as cognates). Those is the chemistry field may even use the term “plant sterol ester” when referring to beta sitosterol and its related supplements, so you may see that term as well when reading about the topic.
Beta sitosterol and its sister phytosterols are structurally similar to the cholesterol found in the human body, which is why you will most commonly find beta sitosterol marketed as a cardiovascular or cholesterol health supplement; beta sitosterol is a heavy hitter when it comes to reducing blood cholesterol levels, because it’s so chemically similar to cholesterol that it literally competes with cholesterol inside your body to be absorbed instead, thus lowering total cholesterol levels.
Because of this, it’s no wonder that beta sitosterol is most well-known for its heart healthy benefits; however, it has many other popular and beneficial uses, including fighting hair loss.
Can beta sitosterol fight hair loss?
To answer this question, we need to take a quick look at what causes the various most common types of hair loss.
- Male pattern baldness/female pattern baldness (androgenic/androgenetic alopecia): Androgenic alopecia, aka male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness, are caused by the way your body reacts to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Contrary to popular belief, dihydrotestosterone is an androgen sex steroid that shouldn’t be confused with testosterone, the male sex hormone. DHT occurs in both men and women, which is why women can also suffer pattern hair loss—men just more commonly inherit the genetics for it, and male pattern hair loss tends to exhibit in a more obvious way than female pattern hair loss. If you’ve inherited a genetic predisposition to androgenic alopecia, your body overreacts to DHT, and your hair follicles become dormant as a result, causing persistent baldness. (Persistent, not permanent, because they can be reactivated through interventions like supplementation.) For men, inheriting male pattern baldness tends to mean that they, conversely, are extremely adept at growing beards; if you’re easily bearded, that may be a clue your hair loss is male pattern baldness.
- Alopecia areata: Alopecia areata is another common cause of hair loss. Here, the hair loss is caused by an autoimmune disorder, and it can also happen in women as well as men. If you’re a man, you may notice that your beard or stubble is becoming very patchy—a clue that your hair loss isn’t androgenic alopecia but may instead be alopecia areata, in which case you should see a doctor for diagnosis just to be sure.
- Discoid lupus: Discoid lupus is a type of lupus that presents mainly with lesions on the skin, but particularly scalp. While it’s not the most severe form of lupus, it may seem to be outwardly, because scarring on the scalp may result in permanent hair loss. Like alopecia areata, it is also an autoimmune disease. The difference here is that discoid lupus presents in lesions on the scalp; hair will regrow when the disease goes into remission, but won’t regrow in places where scarring is severe, which is why it’s important to get treated early.
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (aka “lupus” or SLE): Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is the variety of lupus most people are talking about when they say the word “lupus”. It’s also the most severe form, leading to severe health complications when left untreated. Contrary to common belief, men can also develop lupus, an autoimmune disease that most commonly occurs in men. With SLE lupus, hair loss will be patchy. Fortunately, hair loss with SLE lupus doesn’t cause scarring, so the hair will grow back when your disease goes into remission.
- Nutrient deficiency: Nutrient deficiency is a lot more common than people think. While it’s unlikely you’ll be deficient in every nutrient unless your body has issues with absorption (as in a medical disorder diagnosed by a doctor), there are certain common nutrient deficiencies that can cause hair loss, such as lack of iron or not getting enough protein—which are surprisingly common, the latter especially since Americans are becoming more active and don’t necessarily release you have to amp up the protein when you start heavy workouts.
Now that you’ve read this brief primer on various forms of hair loss, it becomes a lot easier to explain how beta sitosterol can help fight them.
For male pattern baldness and female pattern baldness, it’s now believed that beta sitosterol may be a coveted “DHT-blocker”. DHT blockers are various compounds, many natural, like beta sitosterol, that block your body from being affected by DHT. When DHT can’t interact with your body, your body won’t overreact to it, and thus androgenic alopecia is effectively stopped in its tracks. Because of this, beta sitosterol is a powerful weapon to fight hair loss caused by MPB and FPB.
Remember how beta sitosterol blocks your body from absorbing cholesterol? Well, without the bad LDL cholesterol blocking your arteries, your circulatory system naturally works better. Improved blood flow helps rejuvenate follicles once you’ve stopped DHT from attacking them, so beta sitosterol is a double whammy for those with pattern baldness. But in this vein (pun intended), it can also help people with nutrient deficiencies who need increased blood flow to carry nutritious to their languishing follicles in order to invigorate them and stimulate them to produce healthy hair once more.
Bad cholesterol build-up in your blood stream is an invader. Autoimmune diseases like both forms of lupus and alopecia areata will attack your body’s healthy tissue on a good day for no apparent reason whatsoever. But when there is an invader lurking in your own blood stream, like bad cholesterol? That is an inflammation trigger.
What a lot of may not have heard about autoimmune diseases is that inflammation is both a symptom and a cause of autoimmune diseases flares. So, when your body has increased levels of inflammation due to disease (such as high cholesterol), your autoimmune disease starts attacking healthy tissue, causing more inflammation, and perpetuating a very vicious cycle. One of the biggest ways to manage autoimmune disease-related hair loss is to cut out inflammation wherever possible, and beta sitosterol’s anti-inflammatory properties can help with that. Additionally, the better circulation is great for people with SLE lupus, who tend to be more prone to blood clots and cardiovascular disease. Once again, by improving circulation, you help reinvigorate hair follicles that have been put through the inflammation ringer.
Can beta sitosterol help regrow hair?
Stopping hair loss is always the first step to regrowing healthy hair. Many men will find that once they find out what’s triggering their hair loss and stop it, their hair may grow back on its own. Others, however, require continued supplementation to keep the cause of their hair loss at bay so their hair can regrow. What category you fall into largely depends on both your root cause of hair loss (no pun intended) and your genetics.
Because beta sitosterol is both an effective DHT blocker and an effective anti-inflammatory supplement, if your hair loss is caused by issues related to those two problems, you can be sure that it will definitely help the matter.
You may be wondering can beta sitosterol regrow hair if your hair loss is largely nutrient deficiency-related. Interestingly enough, beta sitosterol is found in large quantities in hair promoting foods like avocado and hair growth herbal supplements like saw palmetto. It seems nature has smartly paired beta sitosterol with foods and herbs that have a lot of other hair healthy nutrients, so we may well find out with more research that it’s for a good reason.
Beta sitosterol reviews
NOW Beta-Sitosterol Plant Sterol contains their proprietary CardioAid-S, a phytosterol blend that contains a hefty 400mg of beta sitosterol, along with sigmasterol and campesterol. It also contains natural fish oil concentrate to further boost circulatory and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Source Naturals contains 375mg of beta sitosterol along with the common companion phytosterols sigmasterol and campesterol. Additionally, it contains 60mg of calcium and is made with a 100% vegan formula, including delivery mechanism (a tablet).
Pure Science’s formula contains only beta sitosterol (375mg) as an active ingredient, which is likely music to the ears of fans of limited ingredients. Also, its delivery mechanism is vegetarian and limited ingredient as well, featuring just three ingredients.
Beta sitosterol side effects
Beta sitosterol is safe for most adults, provided you don’t have the inherited condition known as sitosterolemia. (You would know from an early age if you did.) Side effects are rare in low to mid dosages, but can include stomach issues like heart burn or constipation.
Beta sitosterol dosage
Because taking beta sitosterol exclusively as a hair loss or hair regrowth supplement is a field of study in its early stages, there are no set hard and fast rules. For other conditions, the recommended dosage can vary tremendously. For instance, for BPH dosage may be as low as 60 to 130mg divided over the course of three doses daily, per WebMD. On the flipside, they say that patients with high cholesterol may take as much as 800mg to 6 grams per day (broken up throughout the day and always with a meal). That latter dose range is a lot, and should only be taken under doctor’s supervision.
Because beta sitosterol for hair loss is a new thing, and because mega high doses can lead to some side effects, it’s best to stick to a middle-of-the-road dosage in a known well-tolerated range, like the doses commonly found in reputable supplement brands, which tend to be in the 300mg to 400mg range, and may be paired with similar phytosterols that work together.